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The Ant and the Steam Engine

Peter Godfrey-Smith: James Lovelock, 19 February 2015

A Rough Ride to the Future 
by James Lovelock.
Allen Lane, 184 pp., £16.99, April 2014, 978 0 241 00476 0
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... of account should be given of the shaping of the conditions of life by life itself? In the 1970s James Lovelock, independent scientist and inventor, proposed the Gaia hypothesis. He argued that the Earth regulates itself, and responds to change, in the same sort of way that a single living organism does. The Earth acts to keep itself alive. ...

Our Cyborg Progeny

Meehan Crist: Gaia will save us. Sort of, 7 January 2021

Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence 
by James Lovelock.
Allen Lane, 160 pp., £9.99, July 2020, 978 0 14 199079 8
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... ensure its own survival. This idea has new resonance in a time of climate crisis, and in Novacene, James Lovelock, the man who proposed the Gaia hypothesis (and who turned a hundred in 2019), has set down some thoughts about the possible future of life on this rapidly warming planet.Lovelock, a prolific inventor and ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Erratic Weather, 11 April 2013

... against pessimism he is sceptical about massive geo-engineering schemes of the kind put forward by James Lovelock and the eccentric Stewart Brand. Can-do projects on a grand scale have been dreamed up before: draining the Mediterranean into the Sahara, for instance, or diverting warm Pacific water into the Arctic Sea and turning Siberia into a vast ...

Short Cuts

Jonathan Meades: This Thing Called the Future, 8 September 2016

... town off the Norfolk coast. UEA’s neighbouring ziggurats. Space colonies. Arctic cities. James Stirling’s particularly daft proposal to link Derby’s new civic centre to the town’s past by propping up the façade of the old Assembly Rooms at 45 degrees. Every week brought forth a blinding new notion. Murphy’s catholic survey has a straitened ...

Warmer, Warmer

John Lanchester: Global Warming, Global Hot Air, 22 March 2007

The Revenge of Gaia 
by James Lovelock.
Allen Lane, 222 pp., £8.99, February 2007, 978 0 14 102597 1
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Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis Summary for Policymakers: Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 
IPCC, February 2007Show More
Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning 
by George Monbiot.
Allen Lane, 277 pp., £17.99, September 2006, 0 7139 9923 3
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The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies 
by Richard Heinberg.
Clairview, 320 pp., £12.99, October 2005, 1 905570 00 7
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The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review 
by Nicholas Stern.
Cambridge, 692 pp., £29.99, January 2007, 978 0 521 70080 1
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... because we’re worried that if we start we will have no choice but to think about nothing else. James Lovelock, in his powerful and extremely depressing book The Revenge of Gaia, says this: I am old enough to notice a marked similarity between attitudes over sixty years ago towards the threat of war and those now towards the threat of global ...

From Swindon to Swindon

Mary Beard, 17 February 2011

Full Circle: How the Classical World Came Back to Us 
by Ferdinand Mount.
Simon and Schuster, 438 pp., £20, June 2010, 978 1 84737 798 2
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... agricultural labourers, fantasist and (in Mount’s semi-serious conceit) a 19th-century avatar of James Lovelock and his Gaia hypothesis. One of Jefferies’s favourite haunts was Liddington Hill (now within the official town boundary of Swindon), with its remains of an Iron Age hill-fort and famous clump of beech trees, Liddington Clump. Visiting ...

His Father The Engineer

Ian Hacking, 28 May 1992

Understanding the present: Science and the Soul of Modern Man 
by Bryan Appleyard.
Picador, 272 pp., £14.95, May 1992, 0 330 32012 2
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... contrast between Appleyard and two men who say kind things in the advance publicity for the book: James Lovelock and Oliver Sacks. Be as cynical as you please about Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis or Sacks’s romanticised neurology – they are writers whose best books deserve their enormous readership. They have changed ...

What is the rational response?

Malcolm Bull: Climate Change Ethics, 24 May 2012

A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change 
by Stephen Gardiner.
Oxford, 512 pp., £22.50, July 2011, 978 0 19 537944 0
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... deferred that we must act decisively now. Are these demands reasonable? They might be if – as James Hansen, one of the founders of climate science, has claimed – it is ‘our last chance to save humanity’. But is it? Any change in temperature will inevitably benefit some species and harm others, so it probably is the last chance to save those adapted ...

Where do we touch down?

Jeremy Harding: Bruno Latour’s Habitat, 15 December 2022

On the Emergence of an Ecological Class: A Memo 
by Bruno Latour and Nikolaj Schultz, translated by Julie Rose.
Polity, 80 pp., £9.99, November 2022, 978 1 5095 5506 2
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After Lockdown: A Metamorphosis 
by Bruno Latour, translated by Julie Rose.
Polity, 180 pp., £14.99, September 2021, 978 1 5095 5002 9
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... sense of complexity, a bit like Gaia itself. (ANT, too, seems analogous to the complex system that James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis intuited as they built out their hypothesis in the early 1970s.) The days of the garrulous sciences returning from the field, or the lab, to announce their findings about objects unable to speak for themselves were over. So ...

Slices of Toast

Ruth Padel, 8 March 2007

... Of how polar bears drown, hundreds of miles from land, as ice floes under them melt. I think of James Lovelock’s face, after he’d given his lecture explaining that most of this planet, fifty years from now, will be underwater beginning with Bangladesh, at the top of the Bay of Bengal. Those tangled mangrove swamps of Sundarbans, paradise for ...

Ready to Go Off

Jenny Turner, 18 February 2021

A Handful of Earth, a Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia Butler 
by Lynell George.
Angel City, 176 pp., $30, November 2020, 978 1 62640 063 4
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‘Kindred’, Fledgling’, Collected Stories’ 
by Octavia E. Butler, edited by Gerry Canavan and Nisi Shawl.
Library of America, 790 pp., $31.50, January 2021, 978 1 59853 675 1
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... words of Gerry Canavan, who in 2013 became the first scholar to open them. Butler had been reading James Lovelock and thinking about what would happen if humans migrated to other worlds while continuing to be ‘part of an earth organism in some literal way’: ‘phantom-limb pain’ was a phrase she used in the notes in the boxes. ‘A somehow ...

Water on the Brain

Dinah Birch: Spurious Ghosts, 30 November 2023

‘The Virgin of the Seven Daggers’ and Other Stories 
by Vernon Lee, edited by Aaron Worth.
Oxford, 352 pp., £7.99, September 2022, 978 0 19 883754 1
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... and literature. She was influenced by the work of Walter Pater, and by her friendships with Henry James, Robert Browning and John Singer Sargent. But she was never swayed to the extent that she relinquished her intellectual independence. An atheist and materialist, she had no time for contemporary flirtations with the occult. In 1885 she attended a meeting of ...

Doom Sooner or Later

John Leslie, 5 June 1997

Imagined Worlds 
by Freeman Dyson.
Harvard, 216 pp., £14.50, May 1997, 0 674 53908 7
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... shield against ultraviolet light, be quite as dangerous as hydrogen bombs? Dyson points to James Lovelock’s Gaia, the notion that ‘the chemistry and ecology of Earth are linked in a single system that keeps the environment of the planet within limits tolerable to life.’ ‘I find the Gaia theory plausible,’ he comments, adding that ‘we ...

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